Diversification helps market vendor

Vasemaca Biuvakaloloma stands at her voivoi stall in the Suva Municipal Market. Picture: VILIAME RAVAI

DURING the challenging economic times brought about by COVID-19, market vendors are being forced to relook at the products they sell.

Vasemaca Biuvakaloloma, a voivoi (Pandanus caricosus) trader at the Suva Municipal Market, said the challenge was selling enough product to provide for her family while trying to maintain high quality at a reasonable price.

She said business was so bad that she had begun selling samosa on the side, just to keep afloat and provide for her family.

The Namacu, Koro, native is no stranger to challenges.

She lost all her voivoi plants during Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016 and had to return to Koro and do extensive replanting.

In the four short years since TC Winston, she has managed to keep her business going despite the numerous weather challenges.

“I used to bring my voivoi from Koro to sell here in the market and with this money, I was able to take care of my children’s education,” the 50-year-old said.

“Before TC Winston, I could bring back 100 bundles of voivoi from my village in Namacu.”

The grandmother said at that time, business was very good and raw material was affordable.

Mrs Biuvakaloloma said business was so brisk, she was able to open two stalls and expanded her voivoi, somo (black pandanus), wreaths and virgin oil products.

This year is the worst because people are hardly coming to buy voivoi.

“I will be lucky to sell two coils of voivoi in one week, that’s how bad things are.”

Mrs Biuvakaloloma said she began selling samosa to help keep her business going. However, she said selling voivoi was better than selling samosa or vegetables and crops.

“With dalo and vegetables, it only lasts for a short period of time, after that we have to eat it or it will get rotten.

“But voivoi lasts forever unless you set it alight with matches.”

She said one of her marketing advantages was the reputation she has built over the years.

“People who buy voivoi from me, always return for more because they say the voivoi I sell is soft and flexible.”

Mrs Buivakaloloma can be found at stalls 75 and 76 at the Suva Municipal Market.

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